Two problems mired a fantastic Test between South Africa and Australia in Durban at the start of this week, which the tourists won by 118 runs; poor attendances and the continuing saga of one David Warner. The former is a problem as old as time itself and the latter is, well, the same. For all the assertions from the Australian camp over years of Warner’s changed temperament, as this week has showed, a leopard never changes its spots.
The incident, revealed on leaked CCTV footage, was that of the Australia opening batsman having to be restrained by team-mates during off-field remonstrations with South Africa wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock on the stairs leading to the dressing rooms during the tea interval on the fourth day of play.
Allegedly, Warner’s animated antics were made in response to personal remarks from De Kock about the Aussie vice-captain’s wife. Since the incident, South African voices, including that of captain Faf du Plessis, have kicked off a finger-pointing war by asserting that personal remarks had been made by both sides. Both players involved have, incidentally, been charged by the ICC.
If De Kock’s alleged remarks are true, it is hard to believe that Warner did not provoke them in some way. The man, after all, has a history of crossing the line – he does it more than most, if not all. Indeed, the match itself was bad tempered throughout with verbal altercations between Mitchell Starc and Theunis de Bruyn, and Kagiso Rabada and Warner among a list of incidents to occur.
Hopefully, if anything, this latest affair will put any notion of Warner as ‘The Reverend’ – a reformed, calmer, more positive character – to bed, although in truth, anyone who believed it to begin with would need a lie down. ‘The Bull’, his previous nickname, continues to be the better fit for a hot-head who cannot help but uncontrollably lunge into verbal spats and a man who finds his best motivation in hatred.
Do not get me wrong, Warner is an immense talent and the sort of fighter that you would want on your side, but he plays the game in the ugliest way imaginable and when it comes to the Australian team as a whole, the apple does not fall far from the tree either. The opener’s actions (and words) reflect the nature of the Australian team in general these days. They have become one of the world’s best, possessing the best bowling attack on the planet, but they are also extremely unlikeable.
Nathan Lyon, who has tried to follow Warner’s unsavoury lead all winter, has also been charged by the ICC for dropping the ball on AB de Villiers when the South African was lying on the ground following an unsuccessful dive to prevent being run out. This, another example of Australia’s aggressive, intimidation tactics that repeatedly cross over the line over disrespect.
Warner, the leader of the crass ranks, seems intent on simply never learning and repeating his same old mistakes.